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Commercial airplane operators now have access to an expanded, complete range of modification and engineering services from the recently launched Boeing Airplane Services. This new enterprise consolidates modification and engineering efforts in Seattle, Wash., Long Beach, Calif., and Wichita, Kan., to offer one-stop shopping for operators of all Boeing- and Douglas-designed commercial airplanes.

In response to the airline industryís increasing need to outsource airplane modification and engineering, Boeing established Boeing Airplane Services to supply a full range of related services from technical consulting to major conversions. Operators of Boeing- and Douglas-designed commercial airplanes can now choose the level of support to provide internally and request the remaining work from Boeing Airplane Services. This allows operators to perform their own maintenance while shifting modifications, upgrades, and retrofits to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or to request all engineering, modification, and maintenance work from Boeing Airplane Services.

In-service problems, new regulatory requirements, and market changes often make it difficult for operators to delay incorporation of modifications and upgrades until major maintenance checks. Instead, changes to address regulatory compliance, improve operating efficiency, or enhance passenger appeal must be made quickly. These include upgrades in avionics, in-flight entertainment, cargo options, interiors, payload systems, electrical systems, and environmental systems. As part of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group, Boeing Airplane Services is meeting these requirements.

Boeing receives 3,000 to 4,000 calls per year for engineering assistance on a variety of requests, from after-sale support to 747 passenger-to-freighter conversions. Boeing Airplane Services responds to these requests for new modification and technical support work by using the same engineering and modification knowledge and experience that has always been available from Boeing Customer Services for warranty and other fleet support. This includes the ability to call upon the full range of Boeing design engineering disciplines, project management, and large-scale integration skills. In addition, partnerships with hardware suppliers, modification houses, airlines, and leasing companies help create a single source of expertise for engineering and modification requirements for the more than 10,500 Boeing commercial airplanes now in service.

As a result, operators receive service that is planned and managed to minimize downtime when multiple conversion and upgrade activities are needed. For instance, upgrades such as the advanced common flight deck can add value to a DC-10. When coupled with a passenger-to-freighter conversion, making the airplane an MD-10, the converted airplane re-enters service in its cargo configuration with fleet standardization retrofits also accomplished.

Boeing Airplane Services is equipped to respond to the many factors operators must evaluate when purchasing engineering and modification services:

  1. Certification.
  2. Quality and experience.
  3. Cost.
  4. Market and competitive issues.
  5. Product support.

Aviation regulatory agencies around the world have demonstrated their preference for the OEM to participate in airplane modifications. They believe that the resulting work offers maximum assurance of safety and total integration with all aspects of the airplane. Modifications and upgrades are made consistent with OEM design and quality standards. Boeing Airplane Services can provide an integrated work package that includes the engineering, parts, publications, training, and installation labor. When certification responsibility rests with Boeing, the regulator and the operator are assured of consistent and complete data linked to the original type certificate. Selecting the specific certification method best suited for a particular modification minimizes the total cost to the operator. This can simplify the subsequent modification of other airplanes in the operatorís fleet or the incorporation of similar changes in new airplanes before delivery.

Modification work performed by the OEM benefits from a comprehensive understanding of the airplane. Production parts and materials are used wherever applicable, and every work package is considered from a total systems integration perspective. Engineering, operations, and quality assurance experts are experienced with the work and the unique requirements for each airplane, and work performed by Boeing Airplane Services carries the Boeing warranty. As the OEM, Boeing can anticipate any side effects some modifications may cause and recommend a strategy for minimizing how they can alter airplane or systems performance.

Every aspect of modifying, upgrading, or maintaining an airplane is accompanied by a cost associated with a combination of the following factors:

  • Certification.
  • Downtime.
  • Resale.
  • Hardware.
  • Performance.
  • Commonality.

Extensive data from analysis, simulations, and testing are compiled when an airplane is originally designed, and these data are augmented by subsequent production changes. The result is a large library of proprietary information already available to meet many of the requirements necessary for an amended type certificate or a supplemental type certificate (STC). In many cases, using these data can reduce the time needed to return the airplane to service.

A common cost factor associated with modification work is the ability to complete work packages quickly and return the airplane to revenue service. Because Boeing Airplane Services can access a large number of Boeing resources, it can call on employees with skills from multiple disciplines to complete a variety of work packages concurrently. For example, an airplane undergoing an avionics upgrade could also have a D-check and retrofit work performed at the same time. Combined with timelier certification, the cost savings in reduced downtime could be significant.

Many modifications enhance the resale value of an airplane or are required by leasing companies to meet the needs of their next customer. Boeing Airplane Services works with operators to identify all factors that can increase resale value. These factors include dual certification (from both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] and Joint Aviation Authorities), provisions for easier subsequent modifications, or incorporation of applicable service bulletins.

Maintaining commonality by using existing airplane parts and installations in a modification reduces the operatorís total inventory and can simplify maintenance.

Increased performance options can earn an operator millions of dollars in revenue throughout the lifetime of a converted freighter. Maximum zero-fuel weight, maximum landing weight, maximum takeoff weight, and engine upgrades improve performance substantially, especially when compared with typical STC modifications. Enhancements to improve passenger appeal also can benefit operating revenue, especially in markets where airline differentiation substantially affects load factors. Filling one additional premium class seat per flight can yield between $0.9 million and $2.5 million a year per airplane, depending on airplane type and route. Project management and engineering support from Boeing Airplane Services can minimize the installation costs, downtime, and airplane performance effects associated with passenger cabin upgrades.

Boeing Airplane Services offers the expertise and design specifications to modify any of the more than 10,500 Boeing airplanes flying today, providing operators with a certain economy of scale. Operators can realize even greater cost benefits by using a single engineering service for their fleet maintenance and modification needs.

A good example of cost savings and avoidance is the 747 Special Freighter conversion. The basic modification turns a 747-100/-200/-300 passenger airplane into a freighter with the addition of a side cargo door, strengthened main deck, main deck cargo-handling and restraint system, power drive system, upper deck seating, and up to 590,000 lb (269,892 kg) of maximum zero-fuel weight. Boeing builds a payload advantage into the conversion by constructing an entirely new floor system, which weighs less than the original floor yet provides the necessary strength for cargo. Some other modification organizations strengthen the beams of the airframe with extra materials, adding weight and the need for additional spare parts. Based on domestic operation with an average 2,000-nmi trip distance, the 747-100 Special Freighter needs only 51 tons (46 t) of its available 101 tons (92 t) to offset total trip costs. The remaining 50 tons (45 t) is profit potential. The functionality, reliability, and performance of the 747 are maximized in the conversion.

The example of the 747 Special Freighter is especially significant because of the most recent air cargo forecast, projecting cargo traffic worldwide to rise an average of 6.4 percent per year for the next 20 years -- triple that of current levels. To meet that need, 2,346 new freighters will enter service. An estimated 73 percent of these will come from the conversions of passenger and combination passenger/freighter aircraft to freighters, and 1,324 of these will be Boeing airplanes. Of that number, nearly 850 will be large-capacity freighter airplanes.

Small changes in load factors can translate into significant changes to an operatorís profits. Operators must respond effectively to changes in the marketplace and competitorsí initiatives before load factors and customer loyalties erode. Boeing Airplane Services engineering and technical consulting services can help operators understand their options and develop a plan for maximum revenue, whether for a passenger-to-freighter conversion, a new entertainment system, or a new-look interior. Once the plan is developed, Boeing Airplane Services can assist with project management on any or all parts of an upgrade program.

The availability of expertise, spare parts, applicable technical manuals, and service bulletins also significantly affects an operatorís costs. Boeing Airplane Services offers one-stop shopping for engineering, certification, parts, publications, recovery and modification services, and installation labor.

Expert knowledge in electronics, avionics, airframe systems, propulsion, and structures means multiple services can be performed concurrently. Expertise in large-scale systems integration and project management means all work will be performed efficiently, effectively, and to the highest Boeing standards, reducing total cost and downtime.

Boeing Airplane Services performs modifications involving all degrees of complexity and specializes in passenger-to-freighter conversions, flight-deck improvements, performance improvements, and passenger cabin upgrades. Also available is a complete range of technical services to help operators develop solutions to technical problems.

Boeing Airplane Services has access to the original airplane drawings for all Boeing- and Douglas-designed airplanes as well as the original design, test, and analysis data. Operator comments and input are additional sources of technical data that Boeing Airplane Services uses to develop solutions to common problems and requirements across the entire fleet of in-service Boeing airplanes.

Examples of work Boeing Airplane Services can provide because of its broad expertise and access to required data include modification kits to install a global positioning system throughout an entire fleet, and technical assistance to replace VHF navigation receivers with FM-immune multimode receivers.

Another example is implementation of airborne collision avoidance systems. Boeing Airplane Services has knowledge of the installation of electronic equipment, such as antenna radiation patterns, antenna location and cutouts, and electromagnetic compatibility environment. This information, combined with the design data and experience with traffic collision avoidance systems, allows Boeing Airplane Services to provide operators with a successful retrofit modification.

Boeing Airplane Services is thoroughly familiar with both Boeing- and Douglas-designed airframes and systems and can provide the requested modifications, upgrades, or retrofits in the optimal configuration at minimum cost and risk.

Boeing modifications are built from production standards for those airplanes still in production. As a result, new parts benefit from any reliability, efficiency, or performance improvements incorporated since the airplane was built, translating to fewer parts and fewer spares required later. Boeing Airplane Services can ensure the availability of spare parts, when required, if the parts are issued by Boeing.

Service bulletins and operator manuals that follow a Boeing modification reflect the new configuration of that integrated airplane system. In typical third-party STC modifications, the manuals and bulletins will be limited to the specific work done.

Recovery and modification services (RAMS).
RAMS provides comprehensive, integrated assistance to recover a disabled airplane. This organization provides the labor, skills, parts, plans, tools, and materials necessary to return damaged airplanes to service with the minimum effect possible on schedule and revenue. RAMS service includes accurate, documented damage assessments, analysis of repair options, and repair, including specialized repair work. Service bulletin and FAA Airworthiness Directive work can be performed concurrently with other repair activity. RAMS also maintains special tooling and kits for direct customer lease.

Installation labor.
Boeing Airplane Services has extensive installation and modification capability in Wichita and Long Beach. The organization can also assist operators who choose to perform installation work at their own facilities or use a third-party modification shop.


Boeing Airplane Services offers a complete range of modification and engineering services for operators of Boeing- and Douglas-designed commercial airplanes. By working with Boeing resources and suppliers, Boeing Airplane Services can perform any level of work requested by operators while meeting Boeing standards for original manufacture and federal regulatory standards for rework. This work ranges from avionics upgrades to passenger-to-freighter conversions, all with commensurate benefits for operators. Examples include the millions of dollars in additional revenue operators can realize by converting a passenger airplane to a freighter or by adding passenger amenities, such as in-flight entertainment systems, that can result in higher passenger load factors.


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